Monday, December 28, 2015

Buster Keaton’s Ghost

Keaton on stage with his parents.
Joseph Frank Keaton earned the name “Buster” after a family friend watched the 6-month-old child tumble down a flight of stairs in a boardinghouse and escape unscathed.

Joining his parents on stage at the age of 3, Buster spent the next 15 years performing—he attended school just once for one day—during these years.

In 1917 he joined his mentor Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle in making two-reelers—these films are classics today. More information about Arbuckle is located here.

Arbuckle and Keaton
Starting in 1921 Buster produced his own films. He had become one of the greatest comedic actors of the silent film era. His comedy and wild stunts are still watched today with appreciation.

In his film Sherlock Jr. in 1924 when he walks up to a projected image in a movie house and walks into the image on the screen it became one of Hollywood's memorable film moments.

He was a genius when it came to creating gags that involved mechanics. He always did his own stunts.

His most famous stunt—was standing deadpan as a hinged 3-story house front fell around him as he stood in a window gap –there was only an inch and half clearance between this frame and his unprotected body.

In another stunt, he broke his leg during the filming of The Electric House in 1922.

In a stunt, he did for Sherlock Jr. as he dropped from a rope he was blown off train tracks by water rushing out of a railroad refill tank. It wasn’t until later he learned his neck was broken.

Both these stunts are highlighted in the video below.

Like many comedians, Keaton also had a darker side. He was known to drink too much, like his father before him.

It was supposedly a “drunken incident” with Louis B. Mayer in the early 1930s that led to Keaton’s dismissal from a contract, he had with MGM.

This sent him on a downward spiral that ended his film career —another factor was the invention of talkies.

In the 1960s he returned to film appearing in a series of “beach party” movies. Even though this was thought to highlight how far he had fallen Keaton himself stated he enjoyed this work.

In 1960 the Academy Awards gave Buster Keaton an honorary Oscar for his film achievements.

Buster Keaton's villa.
At the height of his career in 1925, Keaton had a 30-room Italian villa built on Pamela Drive in Beverly Hills. This home was surrounded by ten acres.

His gardens had remote-controlled streams stocked with trout. The front of the house had a sixty step marble staircase lined with statues that led to a 50-foot Romanesque marble pool.

To make grand entrances for his friends Keaton rigged his living room drapes so he could swing down from a second-floor balcony.

Keaton had this home built for his wife Natalie Talmadge and two sons who moved into the house with Natalie’s mother.

Buster with Natalie
After the birth of her second son, Natalie decided she didn’t want any more children, so she moved into a separate bedroom. The marriage ended in 1932 in a bitter divorce. Partly became of Keaton’s drinking and party because of his extramarital affairs.

Natalie changed their son’s last names to “Talmadge” and didn’t let them have any further contact with their father. She never remarried and died an alcoholic.

Keaton also lost his beloved home in 1933 after their divorce.

After Keaton’s death in 1966, the subsequent owners of the villa felt Keaton’s ghost haunted this property. His ghost became a “slightly annoying presence” for these owners—for his spirit is playful.

Pamela Mason divorced the English actor James Mason in the mid-1960s. She was one of the first high profile clients of Marvin Mitchelson, the divorce lawyer who pioneered the right to palimony.

Pamela before and after divorce.
Pamela like her husband was an actor. She starred with her husband in a television series called The James Mason Show.

Mason lived in Keaton’s former house for 25 years. During this time she was plagued by the lights mysteriously turning off and on and the telephone wires malfunctioning.

Buster’s ghost also fiddled with the water faucets, doors, wall hangings and any other object he could move to gain her attention.

Pamela Mason had a fatal heart attack in this house in 1996. Some believe her ghost has joined Keaton’s in haunting the property.

This villa has ironically been used in recent years as a “Haunted House” attraction during the Halloween season.

The following short video is a compilation of Keaton’s best film stunts.

No comments: